Monday, May 02, 2011

Andalusia has different flavor from rest of Spain

On our swing through cities that were the Moorish centers of Andalusia, we were dazzled by the palaces, forts and mosques. We are doing the whole trip by train.

When we arrived in Cordoba in southern Spain, the accent told us we were in a different part of the country. Local people drop their S’s -- gracias becomes gracia’, más o menos becomes ma’ o meno’, tres euros becomes tre’ euro’ and so on. Consonants are softer than in the north.

The accent sounds very much like what you would hear in Cuba, Puerto Rico or other Caribbean countries. I have read and heard that  this is because many of the conquistadors came from Andalusia in southwestern Spain and left their linguistic imprint.

Moorish arches in the Alcázar in Seville.

Moorish influence strongest

In any case, Andalusia looks and feels different from the rest of Spain. The Moors held onto this territory the longest, much of it for eight centuries. The Christian Reconquest of what we now call Spain moved south. Granada was the last holdout, falling in 1492.

The Great Mosque in Córdoba. The Christians built a cathedral inside the Islamic structure.

Andalusian horses are trained and shown in Cordoba. They can dance passable Flamenco. The center of breeding and training where we saw this show was founded in 1567.

Inside the Great Mosque of Cordoba. The crucifix occupies a niche surrounded by Moorish arches.

 Moorish castle, from
Gibraltar in "Ulysses"

In the famous last chapter of James Joyce’s Ulysses,  the thoughts of Molly Bloom wander back to Gibraltar, where she grew up. Her father was an Irish soldier in the British Army garrison stationed there. She recalls a romantic encounter with Leopold Bloom, whom she will later marry, "under the Moorish wall." We didn’t snap any photos of the wall when we were in Gibraltar, but we saw signs of Moorish influence in, of all places, the arches of the Anglican cathedral there.
The Romans left their mark in every town of any size in Spain. Here is the Roman theater in Malaga. Hometown boy Antonio Banderas has performed here.

In the Alcazaba Castle, which dominates a hill in Malaga.

A sculputure outside the bull ring, Malaga. Cindy refused to go with me to a corrida. A recent poll showed that about 10 percent of Spaniards are "very interested" in bullfights, 10 percent are "somewhat" interested and the rest are indifferent or opposed. Bullfighting seems to be more popular in the south. It is also part of a tradition in southern France, where Unesco recently recognized bullfighting as part of France’s contribution to world heritage. Story here. 

Ronda is perched on cliffs. Like the Romans before them, the Moors built a fortress wall around their city, which has the natural reinforcement of a 400-foot-deep gorge. Views are spectacular from above and below. 

In Granada, gypsies carved homes out of the soft hillside stone. This was part of a museum display, but modern homes and businesses are also cut into the rock.

Penitents in the Palm Sunday procession in Granada.
Every day during Holy Week, all over Andalusia, local religious societies stage processions through the center of town. In the bigger cities, a half-dozen processions are scheduled each day. The conical hats allow sinners to repent without revealing their identity. Each procession includes floats of Jesus and Mary borne by up to 150 men, several marching bands and costumed marchers. The tradition goes back at least 400 years. History and description are here.

A two-minute video of the Palm Sunday procession in Granada is below.

Women in the procession wear mantillas and carry a rosary and candle. The processions move very slowly and take up to six hours. The candle is for when it gets dark. Some of the women wear high heels, which has to qualify as a form of penance.

At the Alhambra "red palace" in Granada.

At the Casa de Pilatos in Seville. It had Roman, Moorish and Renaissance elements in the architecture.

The Maestranza in Seville was built in the 18th Century and is one of the country’s most renowned bull rings. I saw a corrida there. The next day, the reviewer said all three of the bullfighters (toreros) were crap, which confirmed my own uninformed opinion. Bullfighting rituals go back at least 5,000 years in the Mediterranean. A Minoan fresco from Crete 3,500 years ago shows a toreador leaping over the horns and onto the back of a bull. Both men and women practiced this ritual.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:52 AM

    Thanks so much! Wondeful adventure on your site here! Especially thanks for posting the mural also! It's fantastic! Sometimes it boggles my mind that there were artists this good that long ago! And I feel like I've been to this part of Spain now. Thanks again! :) Skyehook